The Road to Wrestelmania officially kicks off Sunday evening with the airing of 2015’s Royal Rumble – one of the WWE’s premiere events. Since some of us here at ComicBook.com think comic books and pro wrestling have a lot in common, we thought we’d mark this year’s Rumble with a rundown of some of the most memorable superhero rumbles in the medium’s history. And in an effort to keep this list all thematic, we also listed a “Royal Rumble analogue” for each storyline – i.e. which WWE Royal Rumble that is most similar in storyline terms to the comic book arc being listed.
10. Secret Wars
In what turned out to be Marvel’s first true event, every major hero and villain (with a few exceptions) is magically transported to a planet called Battleworld by a cosmic entity known only as the Beyonder. Everybody is expected to fight for the Beyonder’s enjoyment, but the X-Men break off from the rest of the heroes because of their outcast mutant status, while Doctor Doom has his own plans to steal the Beyonder’s power and declare himself emperor of pretty much everything. What the story lacks in nuance it makes up for in fun and for establishing the template of what a big blockbuster epic is supposed to look like. Plus, the series had a sequel (the disappointing Secret Wars II) and is being referenced again this Spring with Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars, where the Marvel Universe as we know it is supposed to end.
Royal Rumble analogue: 1988
The original Royal Rumble, which was won by Hacksaw Jim Duggan (hoooo) may not be the greatest Rumble of all time, but it set the stage for one of WWE’s most popular events.
9. "Under Siege"
In this landmark Avengers storyline from Roger Stern, the fourth iteration of the Masters of Evil (led by Baron Helmut Zemo) finally score a somewhat decisive victory over “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” when they successfully overtake Avengers Mansion and leave a path of carnage in their wake. Even Jarvis the butler isn't immune to the bloodshed, as he is brutally beaten (in front of Captain America) by Mister Hyde. Hercules is so badly injured by the villains, he is hospitalized. Still, with the help of the Wasp and some other unexpected allies, the Avengers mount their comeback. The final battle is Cap vs. Zemo, which sees the villain accidentally get thrown off the roof of the mansion to his death. The Avengers win, but at what cost? Zemo is dead, Jarvis and Hercules hurt, and Cap’s old photos of his mother were destroyed by the Masters of Evil.
Royal Rumble analogue: 2001
As the iconic "Attitude Era" of WWE was winding down, the company’s most popular wrestler, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin got one last chance of championship glory. Adding to the drama was that Austin was coming off a serious injury (neck surgery – though for storyline purposes he was hit by a car driven by Rikishi who “did it for the Rock”). Austin survived a Rumble that even saw television celebrities like Drew Carrey get into the mix. However, at what cost did Austin win? In the months following his victory, Austin made a deal with the devil himself, Vince McMahon, and turned heel en route to winning WWE gold at Wrestlemania X-7 against the Rock.
8. "Rogues War"
In Geoff Johns’s final story during his first run on The Flash, three different groupings of Wally West’s rogues are pitted against each other when they believe that Silver Age Flash Barry Allen had used Zantana powers to rehabilitate one of the villains (who in turn, used mind control powers to manipulate some of the Rogues). If that sounds a bit confusing, just understand that all of the villains in the Flash universe were fighting each other with Wally and the rest of the speedsters stuck in the middle. However, as the story progresses, "Rogue War" evolves into a battle of Wally versus his chief nemesis, Zoom, the modern day incarnation of the Reverse-Flash. Zoom even uses his time manipulating abilities to bring back Barry’s arch-rival Professor Zoom (aka, Eobard Thawne) from the future.
Royal Rumble analogue: 2007
There’s usually too much chaos (and people lying around on the ropes) for an actual wrestling match to break out at a Royal Rumble, but 2007 was a rare exception. The Undertaker was the match’s final entrant (No. 30) and after the "Showstopper" Shawn Michaels eliminated RKO tandem Randy Orton and Edge, he and Undertaker engaged in what became a pretty great mini-match to declare a winner. Undertaker eventually scored the victory over his long-term rival Michaels (en route to his title win at Wrestlemania).
7. DC vs. Marvel Comics
Or Marvel Comics vs. DC depending on which issue number you’re holding. Published in the mid-90s, the writing team of Ron Marz and Peter David with art from Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini answer every fanboy's dream when they pair off each company’s biggest and brightest heroes in the battle to end all battles. Fans even got a chance to vote for their favorite winner in many of the mini’s battles, though no "true" winner was ever declared. What’s odd is this series should have been a bigger deal since it was quite rare for so many DC/Marvel heroes to participate in one event, but because DC vs. Marvel was published in the wake of the comic book speculator bubble bursting, it didn’t exactly set the world on fire at the box office.
Royal Rumble analogue: 1994
The Royal Rumble that saw TWO winners for the first time ever, Bret Hart and Lex Luger. But by having two people win, did anyone actually win? Actually, as rumor had it, Hart and Luger were each announced as winning to gauge crowd reaction (Hart’s reaction was louder, which might explain his later title win against Yokozuna at Wrestlemania 10). Such a milestone should have been a bigger deal, but this Rumble took place while fan interest in wrestling was at a (then) all-time low, plus WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was preoccupied with the steroid trials that nearly destroyed his company.
6. Blackest Night
Considered the final chapter of Geoff Johns’s trilogy of big events that impacted the Green Lantern universe in the late 2000s, Blackest Night sees DC’s heroes battling the demonic Nekron and his Black Lanterns – a variety of deceased characters like Elongated Man and Martian Manhunter who are aided by the powerful force of the Black Lantern power battery. In the storyline's dramatic final act, a number of the deceased heroes are resurrected via the White Power Ring. The ring also destroys Nekron in the process. The shocking return of heroes like Aquaman and Firestorm elicits a mostly happy ending to this otherwise harrowing story.
Royal Rumble analogue: 2008
It might appear that John Cena wins pretty much everything these days, but fans were legitimately shocked when he returned from a torn pectoral muscle injury months ahead of schedule and won the 2008 Royal Rumble as its 30th entrant. And not only did he win the Rumble, but he eliminated “The Game” Triple H, one of the most dominant wrestlers of our generation (he would agree).
5. Avengers vs. X-Men
This huge 12-part miniseries which sprawled out into various books and spinoff series saw Marvel’s two prime super-teams squaring off against each other over the return of the dreaded Phoenix Force. Cyclops, Colossus, Emma Frost, Namor and Magik bond with the Phoenix Force, becoming an unstoppable juggernaut (but not THE Juggernaut) dubbed the Phoenix Five. Eventually, the Avengers rally to defeat the five and join together with some of the remaining X-Men who turn on Cyclops (who when possessed by the Dark Phoenix Force, kills his mentor Charles Xavier). By the end of the series, Captain America kicks off the Uncanny Avengers, a mix of Avengers and mutants, fighting side-by-side.
Royal Rumble analogue: 2000
Better known as the Rock’s official coming out party after the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin era was put on temporary, injury-aided hiatus. And while Rock initially believed he would only win the Rumble by eliminating Headbanger Mosh and Crash Holly, he actually needed to overcome the unstoppable monster known as Big Show (when he was still an unstoppable monster – though his hands were still the size of frying pans). Rock wins (though some chicanery followed) in a fun, but predictable event.
4. "Maximum Carnage"
This early 90s storyline was doled out in 14 installments across all the Spider-books and saw Spider-Man team-up with Venom, Black Cat and about a dozen other random heroes (Deathlok? Morbius?) to fight the psychotic Carnage and his gang of D-list allies (Shriek, Carrion, Demongoblin and Doppleganger). While “Maximum Carnage” undoubtedly has its fans, others have derided the story as an overwritten mess that could have been better told across a more traditional three- or four-issue arc. Many of the same emotional and thematic beats are repeated over and over and, as crazy as Carnage might be, he is just too one-dimensional of a villain to build such a huge arc around.
Royal Rumble analogue: 2011
In what was advertised as the biggest Royal Rumble ever (40 participants), the relatively new, but much ballyhooed Alberto Del Rio fulfilled his “destiny” and won the big event. Still, even after winning the Rumble, Del Rio was never viewed as a credible threat by fans. Having him lose the title match against Edge at Wrestlemania that year didn’t help matters either.
3. Civil War
Love it or hate it (and people certainly have polarizing views of this series), Civil War may be one of the most memorable events that Marvel ever produced. This series saw former allies turn against each other thanks to the Superhuman Registration Act, a federal law that mandates that all individuals with powers register their identities with government. Tony Stark, aka, Iron Man leads his Pro-Registration forces against Captain America and his Secret Avengers. And while both sides of the registration war are initially presented even-handedly by creators Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, as the series chugs along, Stark is seemingly portrayed in an increasingly negatively light, making his ultimate victory over Cap (who was later assassinated while being taken into custody) a bit of a shock to readers expecting “good” to prevail.
Royal Rumble analogue: 1992
In what was easily the most star-studded Royal Rumble in WWE history (the final four was Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice and Randy Savage), Flair shockingly lasted 60 minutes and took possession of the vacated world championship. Heels (or bad guys) didn’t typically win big WWE events like this (WWE historically liked to “send homes happy”). Then again, Flair wasn’t your typical heel. Whooooo!
2. Crisis on the Infinite Earths
The entire Multiverse is put at risk in this legendary miniseries from Marv Wolfman and George Perez which sees DC’s heroes (and even many of its villains) band together to take on the cosmic powerhouse known as the Anti-Monitor. Still, when all hope is lost and the Anti-Monitor kills Supergirl (who was defending her cousin Superman), it takes a "flash of lighting" to save the universe from certain destruction. The forgotten Flash, who is being held prisoner by the Anti-Monitor, uses his super speed to drain the positive matter energy from the villain’s anti-matter canon. Flash dies in the process, but he ultimately succeeds where everyone else before him had failed.
Royal Rumble analogue: 2006
While a few smaller competitors had won the Royal Rumble in the past, WWE’s big behemoths have traditionally been favored to win the event. That was until the diminutive Rey Mysterio overcame the longest of odds – drawing No. 2 in entry order AND having to battle the deadly Triple H/Randy Orton alliance – to become the smallest winner in Rumble history.
1. Kingdom Come
This critically acclaimed Elseworlds story from Mark Waid and Alex Ross takes place in the distant future where the DC Universe’s "traditional" heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman have faded into obscurity, while newer, edgier metahumans, who are not afraid to murder in cold blood have risen to the foreground. Superman returns from his hiatus to reform the Justice League and reestablish order in a chaotic world. However, Superman meets resistance from a member of the old guard, Batman, who believes Supes ideas are outdated and tactless. He also faces resistance from a brainwashed Captain Marvel – the only metahuman with the might to match Superman’s. Superman, of course, emerges victorious, but not without significant casualties in the Metahuman Civil War.
Royal Rumble analogue: 2013
LOLCenaWins! Seriously, the main event for Wrestlemania 29 was set in stone nearly a year in advance, so once the Rock took the belt from CM Punk earlier that night, it was inevitable that John Cena would win the Rumble itself and face Rock a few months later. And just in case you’re not convinced of the similarities, consider how Punk was a member of the established guard and was leery of SuperCena’s old-fashioned ways (a la Batman and Superman) and Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson, was recently cast to play Captain Marvel/Shazam antagonist Black Adam in an upcoming movie. It’s all right there in front of us!